Our Council meeting on 24 June was conducted virtually, and we welcomed some members of the public and staff to join us. We’re planning to return to meeting in person in September, restrictions permitting.
We had an update on the new option we introduced earlier this year to pay the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) by instalments. Almost 10% of dental care professionals selected this option by the deadline of 31 May. Speaking personally, that seemed rather low, as the scheme aims to support dental professionals who pay their own fee by enabling them to can spread the cost over the year with quarterly direct debits.
However, the feeling in the Council was that uptake will build over time. Payment by instalments proved to be particularly popular amongst people who currently pay by direct debit, with just over one-third of this group switching to pay by instalments. Dentists who wish to pay their ARF by instalments will be able to select this option later in the year.
In the last 3 months we consulted with stakeholders and responded to the Government’s proposals for reform of healthcare professional regulation, calling for greater flexibility and a faster pace of reform. We welcome many of the proposals, particularly the greater flexibility which will mean we will be much more prepared to respond to the changes that will inevitably arise as we move out of the pandemic and dentistry recovers and modernises.
However, as Chair of Council, my biggest concern is the further delay to the reforms as a result of the Government’s decision to review the number of healthcare professional regulators.
The Council discussed the Government’s proposals and other draft legislation with overlapping ambitions for reform and change. These will have an impact on the Dentists Act 1984 and therefore the scope and pace of our plans for reform.
There are complex changes with significant dependencies between them. Uncertainties about which legislative route will be used to deliver which aspects of the government’s policy proposals and regulatory reform will continue to be a key area of focus for us.
We’ll continue to engage stakeholders to promote consultations and explain and seek views on the effect of changes of legislation on our remit and activities, with a particular focus on the proposals for international registration and recognition of qualifications.
During Council we had a summary of our people and organisational development, where it’s good to see that our focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, resilience and wellbeing has been well received by our people. Sickness absence rates reduced by 20.6% in 2020, which we take as a positive sign. Three colleague networks have formed. Our Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) network led our efforts to celebrate Black History Month and bring a diverse range of presenters and stories into our organisation. Our Gender Equality Together network has consulted with colleagues to agree priorities for the next year, and our disability network is forming.
Looking ahead, our work to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services continues and we are starting to develop our corporate strategy for 2023-2025.